Japan Day 2 – Tokyo Bus Tour

Today’s photo set

I should note that my camera crapped out partway through the day (out of batteries…) and so the second batch of photos is from my mom’s camcorder.  There’s also a bunch of photos on a third camera we have along with us, but unfortunately I can’t transfer any of those because my MB classic doesn’t have a memory card reader…so we’re missing a bunch of pictures from the Hama-Rikyu garden…

Side note: I finished Thomas Was Alone last night, and yes, it was excellent!  I hate to say it, but it is a bit short for a $10 game, so if I were you I might wait for a sale of some sort, but it’s still worth getting–just, if the price were lower it’d be nice…

Anyways, phew!  Today was awesome!  Pretty much exactly what I needed after the bout of anxiety I was having last night after first getting here.

Today’s itinerary was nothing except for the all-day grayline bus tour that we had signed up for.  We woke up, ate some sandwiches we had bought at a 7-11 the night before for breakfast, and then went to the hotel lobby to wait.  We were getting a little worried because we didn’t see anyone at the meeting spot (I think it turned out they were just in some nearby seats), but sure enough a lady called out “Mister Wong?” and we were on our way.

I took a bunch of pictures from inside the bus (it was a “bus tour” after all)…even just from the view of the bus I was able to sense a lot about the atmosphere here.  Both in terms of the people (their mannerisms and dress) and the buildings.  This place is filled with buildings that just soar into the sky, but everything is still very open and “clean”.  The streets are really wide, and nothing is really dirty–it’s just this very modern place.

One of the first things I noticed as I walked out of our hotel was the weather.  Overcast weather!  The sun was nowhere in sight and the whole sky was full of light cloud cover.  I think it was then that I knew this was going to be a good day.  Granted, even without the sun shining at us it was still like 80 degrees or something, but regardless, it’s still my favorite weather, and I think that energized me a lot.  Unfortunately, I -still- ended up getting sunburnt on a couple of spots that I missed with the sunscreen (thought my hair would cover em), which just shows you either how much my body hates the sun, or how harsh the sunlight is here…

If I didn’t mention it already, everything here is very systematic, very streamlined, very efficient.  I’ve heard it described as order within chaos, but I actually don’t see much chaos going on.  It’s true that I’d be super scared to drive here (don’t even consider the fact that they drive on the other side of the road and the driver’s seat is on the right), but compared to a place like SF where it’s just sort of “messy”, this seems a lot nicer…it doesn’t feel like there’s any ambiguities anywhere–you just follow the system and everything totally works.  I’d just be worried of messing up the system because of being a weird gaijin who doesn’t know any better…

 

One recurring theme throughout the day was the juxtaposition of beautiful nature with towering skyscrapers.  I think that’s something that I find really beautiful about Tokyo here, is that even though there’s so many people here and there’s all these huge buildings, there’s still places for really pretty parks and shrines and everything.  I don’t know if I’ll ever replace my home sensibilities for quiet suburb-land, but…maybe I could get used to this.

I did a lot of people-watching on the bus and walking around…mainly looking at people’s mannerisms as well as their fashion.  I am super super appreciative of women’s fashion in this country!  Granted, there are still girls here whose fashion senses I do not agree with, but I see so many more skirts here, and long skirts too!  And I’m not talking about pencil skirts or anything like that–I’m talking legitimate, flowy skirts.  I think Sayuri actually already -has- a skirt like the one in this picture, for example…

And let’s not forget that because everyone’s Asian here, there’s a whole lot more pretty hair too…*swoon* 

Course, most of the men have really boring outfits…I guess you win some and you lose some.

 

 

The two main guides we had were this nice lady named Junko (left) and this other lady named Miyuki (right).  They did a good job, and I liked them…even struck up a little conversation in Japanese with Junko-san and explained to her that I studied for 2 years in Stanford but was now graduated and I was starting work in August.  I think she actually asked me if I spoke Japanese because I was muttering things like “sou desu ka…” and “naruhodo…” to myself as she was giving tour guide explanations. ;P

I have to wonder what it’s like to have to be in charge of groups of foreigners all the time though–especially the ones who are demanding, or just dumb (some of them in our group were getting there…).  I meant to say “watashi-tachi no sewa wo shite kudasatte arigatou gozaimasu!~” to Junko-san but didn’t get the chance…d’oh!  Well, I wrote it down on the survey form they gave to us to fill out, so I guess maybe that’ll have to do.

Tokyo tower was our first stop on the tour…not a bad place to start, I guess, as it gives you a view of the city.  We were on a schedule throughout most of the day, so unfortunately we didn’t have that much time to explore all the places we went to fully, but we still got a pretty good glimpse of everything.

Tanabata is coming up (I think a lot of places are supposed to celebrate it on 7/7?), so there were a bunch of places that we saw that had trees (or just small structures) where you could hang your wishes.  Here’s mine in the center…”shiawase ni naru you ni~”  I was trying to think of other possible wishes to write down, but in the end just decided on something simple.  My mom told me that someone passing by complimented me on my handwriting (probably another tourist)…I guess it’s not too bad, but….really not that great either.  I’ve seen one or two cases of cute japanese handwriting and mine doesn’t compare at ALL.  English is the only language where I’ve sort of perfected my penmanship…(and even then, sometimes I don’t get it right)

 OF course, one of the greatest things about being here in Japan is that there is Hello Kitty stuff everywhere!  Granted, I’m not going to buy all of it because it tends to be sort of pricey, and a lot of these things I could just get something similar in the US as well.  But yes, my “kawaii radar” was definitely on overdrive throughout the day.  Here’s a monument that I found at the base of Tokyo tower in the souvenir section.  I’m just noticing the T-shirts in the bottom shelf…I think I saw them but didn’t have the time to take a closer look at them at the time because we were being rushed by the tour schedule…d’oh!  Or, maybe I actually did look at them, but they were too pricey+women’s shirt shape or something like that.  Can’t remember…and don’t plan on coming back here either, so oh well!

I thought it was super cool that I even spotted Rio, the kittyler from Hello Kitty to issho!

For me, the highlight of the entire bus tour was the Meiji shinto shrine (Meiji Jingjuu).  I don’t have too many pictures of it, but walking into the main shrine area, I felt this special sort of resonance within me, because it was just so peaceful and tranquil.  It really spoke to my soul, since of course I’m a very tranquil and quiet person.  And even the grounds around the shrine were just really serene…so much pretty green nature everywhere…

I also offered up a prayer at the shrine…threw my 10-yen coin in, bowed twice, clapped twice, prayed for…maybe a full minute, actually, since I was trying to articulate/formulate my prayer well (something about Sayuri’s well-being and everything), and then clapped again for good measure.  My clapping was super-soft because–well, it’s me, you know?  So maybe the spirits didn’t even hear me at all.  But, it’s okay–that’s just my nature ;P

The first really nice photo I took on this trip (yay macro mode).  These were wind chimes being sold at the shrine.

We continued our tour and visited more gardens…so much pretty green nature everywhere!

Here’s another good shot of the beautiful nature plus skyscrapers idea…

Lunch was included in the price of the tour, so we went to the designated restaurant and they served us all the same meal.  Wasn’t too bad!

They had this guy set up, dressed as a ninja so we could take photos with him and everything.  I couldn’t resist–I had to do a hand seal from Naruto…

Here’s Nakamise street, leading to Asakusa Kannon temple.  It’s kind of like some sort of chinatown-ish place (and ah, this is what all those market/fair/etc scenes in anime look like in real life…), except totally different from chinatown since it’s so much nicer and more spacious.  My mother still told me to watch out for my wallet as soon as we got here *rolls eyes* but I didn’t feel any danger at all…maybe that’s just me being naive.

Again, lots of Hello Kitty stuff everywhere!  I also made my first Hello Kitty purchase today!  Bought a set of the figurines for 600yen, which wasn’t a bad deal!

Our tour drove through Akihabara and dropped off a couple people there (we opted to return to our hotel and tackle Akiba another day).  I will be back to this place, for sure!

They had this little selection of Hello Kitty goods near the foreign visitors desk (hmmm…wait…did you guys set this up especially for me!?), and this is where I made my other purchase of the day…

Got this super-nice HK t-shirt!  ~2500 yen. (I should mention I’ve been tracking my expenses while I’m here, so that I can see in the end exactly how much damage was done…)  And it fits pretty well too!  A little pricier than I would like, so I really had to stop and think about it, but in the end went for it and I’m not regretting it.  This display one was the last one in this size (“medium”), and I didn’t want it to disappear, so I had to take it…

While I was there, I also asked a guy at the foreign visitors desk a whole bunch of questions in Japanese.  Where I could buy a suica card, for instance (at the station), but also other things…I remembered that back at Asakusa, one of the shopkeepers had motioned for me to not take photos of the store merchandise, so I stopped after saying sorry, so I asked the guy if it was rude (shitsurei) to take photos inside stores.  He prefaced his answer with a lot of mmm and something involving “ni yoru to” and such, but in the end he used the word “dame”, which to me says that it’s pretty much a no-no (oops…too late, already took a whole bunch of pictures of all the HK stuff I could see in Nakamise street).  Which is somewhat disappointing, but I think for Sanrio stores I’ll probably still take photos–I’ll just ask them for permission first.  I think it’ll be okay though–I mean, a lot of the Sanrio stores have decorations and statues and such that aren’t for sale, so I don’t see a problem of taking photos of those…

I also asked him what the counter for “cups/glasses” of water was, since I’ve been ordering hot water (oyu) at the restaurants because my mom refuses to drink regular water in foreign countries (only boiled/hot water is okay) and I never was sure what to use for that…but now I know that it’s oyu wo =nihai= kudasai.  So I can say that instead of futatsu.

And I had the chance to do it pretty soon after that!  We walked a bit and wandered a bit north from our hotel (mom didn’t want to try anything inside our building) and happened upon a restaurant that looked pretty western.  The menu was still a little intimidating, but not quite as much as yesterday so since there was katakana everywhere (beefu, suupu, etc).  Plus I was feeling better and less stressed/anxious about the whole communicating with Japanese natives thing…I even asked our waiter whether it was acceptable in Japan to take photos of your food in restaurants (he said yes)…and I managed to ask him for a refill for our hot water too!  I was afraid of what choices he would ask us for our order because that was something that tripped me up yesterday, but I actually ended up understanding pretty much most everything he said…

And here’s mine…beef curry!  Yum…really needed that.

Yeah, so a great day!  Feeling a lot better about things now…we’ll see how the rest of the trip goes.  I also know that once I get to Hong Kong (probably going to stop blogging at that point), I’m not going to be able to speak Chinese at all…not only do I not know the language that well in the first place, but it’s going to be extra difficult after trying to think of everything in Japanese terms for a whole week.  I know that when I was first learning Japanese one of the interesting things that happened was that my foreign languages would always get mixed up (never English, just Japanese and French) and I would want to say “tu me manques” because there’s no verb for “to miss [someone]” in Japanese.  I think I still think of “de rien” before “dou itashimashite” when I think about how to say “you’re welcome”…

And now, time for some must-needed sleep!  Feeling the consciousness fading very heavily…

Tomorrow’s plan is to explore Shinjuku–both the immediate area around our hotel, as well as a place that’s to the east of Shinjuku Station.  Let’s do it!!!  Gambarimasu!  Yoshaaaa!  And all that good stuff.

=====

Edit:

Forgot to mention, as we were wandering around looking for a restaurant to eat dinner at, some european lady (and her son) walked up to my mother and asked her if we knew where they could get on the “GR line”.  At first I was actually trying to avoid her because I noticed she seemed to be looking at us and I was like “oh man, what do you want with us!?” so maybe that’s why she approached my mother and not me (or actually, probably because my mother looks more like a tourist than I did at the time), but then I realized they were just lost foreigners looking for somebody who speaks English.  After explaining that it was “JR” and not “GR”, I told them they could go east to Shinjuku station and the JR line would definitely be stopping by there…hope they made it okay.

Also after dinner we got two waribikiken (discount tickets) that you had to scratch off to reveal how much the discount was (we were unlucky, only 50yen…).  Not sure if we’ll be back at the same place again, but it wasn’t bad and not too expensive either (my curry was <1000yen, though my mom’s order was more expensive) so I guess it’s always a safe option.

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2 thoughts on “Japan Day 2 – Tokyo Bus Tour

  1. uru_n_imi

    lol, the ninja guy.I have wondered about whether or not it’s okay take photos of merchandise, since I’ve seen lots of pictures of displays of cute stuff, like what you’ve shown. I’d be too afraid to. Even in the U.S., I feel I need to sneak photos of stuff.

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